location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 5 A Deadly July: Prison Politics, Staff Realities and the Law / The "Hostage-Taking" and Smash-Up in B Unit -- September, 1998

The release of the prisoners on October 13 must also be placed in the context of prison customary law. That release took place 27 days after their initial segregation and one day prior to the date scheduled for the trial of their disciplinary charges. The maximum sentence that the prisoners could receive, if convicted of those offences, was 30 days in segregation, only three days shy of the period they served in administrative segregation. In this way, the customary law of administrative segregation achieved almost everything which could be anticipated from the disciplinary process, assuming that the prisoners were guilty of the offences charged.

That very issue of their guilt came before the Independent Chairperson of the Disciplinary Board, the day following the prisoners release from segregation. As I have described in Sector 3 Chapter 5 several of the prisoners, who maintained that they had been trapped inside the pool room and had not participated in the destruction of the furniture and damage to the room, were represented by lawyer Peter Benning. Mr. Benning submitted that the charges against the men be dismissed on the basis that the institution had failed to lay the charges within a reasonable period, thereby prejudicing the prisonersí right to an early hearing at which they could present their case, and, if found not guilty, avoid further segregation. The Independent Chairperson, Mr. Routley, after hearing evidence from institutional witnesses that did not sufficiently explain why the charges had not been laid sooner, given that all relevant information regarding the incident giving rise to the charge had been in the institutionís possession immediately following the incident, dismissed the charges. Although the Kent administration was upset with this decision, the customary law that had resulted in the prisoners serving twenty-seven days in segregation ensured that the prisoners did not escape punishment, notwithstanding dismissal of the charges against them.

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